Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Critique Tuesday: My #Pitchwars Top Pick

Jessie’s Bullets: Cock It and Pull It.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014
  • __4.9__ lbs. over/under Goal Weight (slowly but surely)
  • 1350     Calories Consumed Yesterday (Wendy's kid-size Frosties are okay, right? Anything kid-size has to be fair game...)
  • __2__ Units of Caffeinated (or otherwise non-water) Beverages (not nearly enough...Gah, I was grumpy almost all day.)
  • __80   Minutes Spent Writing (all crap. all craptastically crap.)
  • _0__Culinary Delights/Disasters Created With Own Hands (but I did go to the grocery store for the first time in three weeks, tomorrow the culinary creativity will flow...)
I still can't get over the awesome 80's pics from yesterday's Killer Monday post. But alas, I must move on...

Today I'm going to share my critique of the query that snagged me as a #Pitchwars Mentor. (Pitchwars is a writing/pitching contest hosted by author, Brenda Drake wherein published authors mentor unpublished writers in the hopes of landing an agent in the agent round. Each Mentor chose one Mentee and two alternates). Here is my top pick--Andy Hertzenberg's query for ONLY IN MY DREAMS: (my comments are in red)

Dear Ms. Humphries,

Olivia Davis may have saved her famous crush's life, but she botches pretty much everything that comes after. Great hook sentence. Short, sweet, and succinct. I have a very good idea of where the story is going.

ONLY IN MY DREAMS, a 55,000 word contemporary YA, is a fresh take on While You Were Sleeping set in teen Hollywood. 
--> Another great sentence that shows me: she’s a pro and knows what she’s doing. Cool contemporary title, appropriate word count for the genre, very marketable genre, and a comp that tells me exactly what I want to know. I am instantly hooked because I am familiar with this plot, and “fresh” along with “teen Hollywood” are perfect defining words for a modern YA story.

Olivia has loved Kit Taylor since the first time she saw him on TV. So when she sees a hunk of crumbling roof head straight for him on the set of his newest movie, she jumps at the chance to save his life. Mistaken for his girlfriend by the ER staff—and then the paparazzi—Olivia uses the mix-up to make sure Kit's okay. She’s ready to bolt when she has to face his family, but they welcome her as the newest member of their bunch. Well, all but Jamie, Kit's younger brother. With Kit in a coma, the family clings to her for comfort and Olivia decides it’s better to let them believe for a little while.

Stuck in a stupid cast, thanks to the clumsy fall she took while trying to save Kit, Olivia is forced to accept rides to and from work by Kit's sullen, mistrusting brother. As if answering a constant barrage of his questions isn't bad enough, Jamie fancies himself a know-it-all at just about everything. He's so sure he gets Olivia, and yes, they have a ton in common—like a love of acoustic guitars and the fact that they'd both do anything for their families, even giving up their own dreams—but that shouldn’t be enough to make them friends. Besides, all they do is argue and toss jabs at each other.

Still, Olivia can't help but see that Jamie is a great guy and she finds herself having fun and wanting to spend more time with him. If she didn’t have a crush on his brother, she might even think of him as more than a friend. When Jamie kisses her during yet another argument, they both feel guilty. 
--> Not sure this is providing big enough stakes. How about “it ruins everything.” She’s supposed to be Kit’s girlfriend. Jamie thinks she is. Everyone does. Everyone but Kit, who has no clue who she is until he wakes up and, convinced by his family that it's the right thing to do, asks Olivia out for real.  --> Cut all this, the query is on the long side (should be around 250 words and you are at double that. Which is okay because it all still fits neatly on one page, but this might help. Forced to choose between doing what's right by telling the truth, and going on lying to the family she always wished she had, Olivia has to make the hardest decision of her life. Not only is it Kit or Jamie, it's coming clean and being true to herself and her parents legacy or living a lie to fill the void they left behind.

I believe we'd be a great Pitch Wars team because I can promise lots of almost kissing, waffle eating on the beach, and two cute boys. Also I've been called the B-word more than a few times myself. The first five pages are pasted below per Pitch Wars guidelines.
--> Great personalization—I really appreciated the effort you put into getting to know who I am—and I know agents will too. But what you are missing is information about yourself. Just a sentence will suffice, but agents want to know something about you. Something interesting, quirky, relevant. Whatev.

 Andy Hertzenberg
***contact info redacted***
--> Great contact info—which I redacted for privacy—ALWAYS put phone number, email, blog, website, etc. ALWAYS. Agents don’t have time to google you and wade through all the other weirdos with the same name as you.
Great query letter, right? I think so. And the actual book is really good too. I have thoroughly enjoyed participating in the Pitchwars experience. Go #TeamBwords!

If anyone wants a query or first page critique, please send it to my email: jessiehump(at)gmail(dot)com

Jessie With A Shot At The Night


  1. I can see why you chose Andy. This sounds fantastic! Best of luck to you both. Go team Jessie!

  2. I think it's great too! I might have picked it as well :)

  3. I'm already ready for the book. Think I like it? Excellent choice Jess.

  4. Excellent! Querying is my nightmare - no matter how hard I try, I can't seem to nail a query as brilliantly as everyone else!